Remember when the New England Patriots were blown out in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football and quarterback Tom Brady was over the hill? No? Neither does anybody else. Brady and the Patriots are firing on all cylinders heading into the start of the holiday season, and they remain atop all National Football League power rankings after easily taking care of a Detroit Lions side that remains one of the best teams in all of the NFC, despite how poorly Detroit was made to look in New England.
The Patriots are unique in that they are the only team that essentially has a division title already in their grasp before Thanksgiving. That logjam in the AFC North isn't breaking up anytime soon. The Denver Broncos cannot separate from two divisional opponents despite notching another win. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are playing like true championship contenders, and yet they are only one game up in the NFC North standings. Even the Indianapolis Colts haven't guaranteed themselves anything at this stage of the campaign.
The NFL is a league that is set up to provide a majority of clubs opportunities to qualify for the postseason every year, and it is once again proving to be a successful model. 24 teams can realistically claim to be in the playoff hunt as Thanksgiving Day approaches. It appears as if a team with a losing record is destined to emerge as the NFC South regular season champion, and there is mathematically a chance that some 11-win clubs could be on the outside looking in come January.
But wait. It gets even more hilarious once you really break it down. Not only could a 5-11 team win a division. That side would, under the format for the NFL Playoffs, get a home game. Fans would understandably be upset were such a scenario to occur, but there is some beauty in the chaos that is the NFL. More fans than not have reasons to tune in every weekend, and that makes for December being truly exciting for both diehard fans who live and die on their favorite teams, as well as for casual viewers who prefer watching NFL RedZone.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
31 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)
Everybody who is burying rookie quarterback Blake Bortles needs to take some advice from Aaron Rodgers and R-E-L-A-X. Bortles is learning while on the job, and the rest of his offense is young and not filled with an abundance of All-Pro talent. The Jaguars need to give Bortles some help over the next couple of years, because continuing to burn through quarterbacks isn't doing the franchise any good. Bortles may not be the guy, but anybody who thinks he knows that to be true right now today is jumping the gun.
30 Oakland Raiders (1-10)
Is there anyone out there who still believes that the NFL is not an "Any Given Sunday" league; or, in this case, an "Any Given Thursday" league? There is plenty wrong with the Raiders this fall, starting with the fact that some rookies on the team were celebrating a win that had not yet been earned. That said, it has been a long and painful season for those within the Oakland locker room. Those guys deserve a break for letting off some steam a bit early. Beating KC was Oakland's Super Bowl for 2014.
29 Tennessee Titans (2-9)
Tennessee fans tuning into NFL RedZone saw plenty of their beloved Titans on Sunday. Unfortunately for them, they were probably watching the Philadelphia Eagles score whenever the Titans were featured on that channel. It's a rough time to be a fan of this franchise, as there are glaring holes on both sides of the roster. The Titans are not one offseason away from turning things around, and those running the club still don't know if there is a franchise quarterback on the team.
28 Washington Redskins (3-8)
The easy and "hot" take in NFL power rankings and Week 12 wrap-up pieces is to bash quarterback Robert Griffin III. RG3 was hung out to dry by his offensive line on Sunday. This isn't to say that he is the answer for the Redskins. Some would argue that how those around him are playing is a sign that Griffin has lost the Washington locker room. Any QB in the NFL can only do so much. RG3 is part of the problem and not all of it, but the Redskins do need to decide who is the best QB to lead the franchise forward.
27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9)
It is yet another week for those in charge of the Bucs to wonder if drafting wide receiver Mike Evans AND quarterback Johnny Manziel wouldn't have been wise. Granted, we don't know what Johnny Football will be in the NFL. He hasn't had a chance to lead a pro offense. Evans is still in his first year in the league, but he has played like a superstar in the making. Evans is the real deal, and opposing defenses are learning about that the hard way each weekend.
26 New York Jets (2-9)
Look at it this way, Jets fans. It can't get any worse, right? The "what would this team have been like had Michael Vick been starting quarterback the entire season" debates have been put to bed. New York has a lame duck head coach and possibly a lame duck general manager. It is clear that those inside of the locker room of the Jets can see the writing on the wall, as the effort put out on Monday night by some players can easily be questioned. Your long nightmare that has been the fall of 2014 is almost over, Gang Green.
25 New York Giants (3-8)
That Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown grab will live on as the greatest catch to date in the history of the league. It does lose some of its luster, however, because of the fact that the Giants lost to their rivals at home. Quarterback Eli Manning is getting criticism for a costly interception that he threw, an awful mistake that cannot be made. Manning has failed the Giants in scoring situations in back-to-back games, and New York's season is now only about the team holding onto whatever pride it has left.
24 Carolina Panthers (3-7-1)
The holiday season has come early for those at the Panthers. Carolina has won just three times in 11 attempts, and yet the Panthers are alive and well as it pertains to the playoffs. That is the state of the NFC South in 2014. The Panthers had a bye week to rest and consider just how lucky they are at the moment. Quarterback Cam Newton certainly needed the off time, as he has been dealing with a plethora of injury problems since the summer months.
23 Minnesota Vikings (4-7)
Beating the Packers would have been the banner moment of the season for the Vikings, but it was not meant to be. Opinions on what Minnesota should do with running back Adrian Peterson, once Peterson is allowed to again take the field, understandably vary. I myself am not sure how I feel about the issue. What I and others around the NFL do know is that the Vikings are undeniably missing Peterson. A talent like that cannot be replaced by the "next man up."
22 Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
After what occurred in Atlanta on Sunday, there have to be some within the Falcons wondering what the team would be if somebody other than Mike Smith was the Atlanta head coach. Smith was responsible for some of the worst time management you will see from any football coach at any level, and the defense of the Falcons sat back and allowed Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer to drive the Browns down the field for the game's biggest drive. Smith helped Atlanta give that game away.
22. New Orleans Saints (4-7)
It's difficult to be too down on the Saints despite their awful record and the fact that they are now 3-3 at home this season, after dropping a third consecutive contest at the Superdome. New Orleans is, after all, right in the thick of what is the ugliest playoff race the NFL has seen in some time. If the NFL and the CFL had a deal similar to what takes place in European soccer leagues, the entire NFC South would be relegated to the second tier. There isn't a single good team in that division.
21 St. Louis Rams (4-7)
St. Louis once again showed up to play against a tough opponent, and there is something to be said for that. The Rams just don't have the horses to consistently overtake the best of the best in the NFL this fall. It all starts with the quarterback in the modern NFL, and the Rams do not have a healthy starting QB on the roster. Sam Bradford may not be the guy for the long haul, but he will be given one final time to resurrect his pro career in 2015 because the alternative for St. Louis is scary.
20 Houston Texans (5-6)
Houston had an opportunity to capitalize following an impressive road victory over the Cleveland Browns, but the Texans could not hold serve at home versus the Cincinnati Bengals. There is now a reason for real concern among the Texans, as quarterback Ryan Mallett is banged up and lost for the season just two games into his tenure as the team's starting quarterback. The world saw what Houston looks like when other QBs on the roster are in the lineup. It wasn't pretty then, and it won't be pretty over the next month.
19 Chicago Bears (5-6)
They are a long shot to be there when all is said and done, but the Bears are still in the playoff hunt despite the team's poor form as of late. Quarterback Jay Cutler makes headlines and receives a ton of criticism whenever he has a bad game, which is understandable considering the
outrageous massive contract he was awarded by the Bears in the offseason. Running back Matt Forte, meanwhile, continues to be one of the best in the business at the position, arguably the most underrated offensive player in the NFL.
18 Miami Dolphins (6-5)
It is now Wild Card or bust for the Dolphins, following a narrow loss at the Denver Broncos. The New England Patriots are going to run away with the AFC East regular season championship so long as Tom Brady remains healthy, and the Dolphins can do nothing about that. Miami winning three of five to close out the season would make for a respectable record, but an AFC team that finishes the campaign with a 9-7 record probably isn't making the postseason this time around.
17 Buffalo Bills (6-5)
The Bills could be one scary team over the final month of the regular season. They are playing for a community that was devastated by one of the worst snowstorms you'll ever see. What was already a menacing Buffalo defense terrorized the Jets on Monday. It will now have a chance to feast on a Cleveland Browns offense that has been inconsistent as of late. Barring an emotional letdown that would be understandable, the Bills could remain in the playoff hunt for longer than many originally expected.
16 Detroit Lions (7-4)
Detroit losing to New England is not, on its own, newsworthy. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL right now. That the Lions were punched in the mouth and thoroughly dominated throughout that contest is what is worrisome. Detroit will now have just a few days to prepare for a Thanksgiving Day showdown with their division rivals, the Chicago Bears. That is a home game for the Lions, a contest that Detroit cannot afford to lose if the club wants to hang with the Packers in the standings.
15 Cleveland Browns (7-4)
Cleveland edged out a victory over the Atlanta Falcons in spite of the play of quarterback Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was downright terrible up through 59 minutes of football before the Atlanta defense played dead and allowed a man who is a clutch QB to drive down the field. Think about this: Hoyer was one Atlanta first down away from potentially being benched for rookie Johnny Manziel, but he changed all of that with four throws. How many of his nine lives has Hoyer thus far used, and will he run out of them before Christmas?
14 San Diego Chargers (7-4)
The Chargers simply needed a win following a brutal stretch of games. That San Diego did not earn style points in dispatching of the Rams does not matter in the standings. The Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and the Chargers are all playing winning football. At least one of those teams is going to be left behind at the end of December. San Diego can avoid being that team by earning victories, but doing that will be easier said than done. The Chargers close out the campaign with games against the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, and the Chiefs. Yikes.
13 Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
Do not pencil the Seahawks into the NFC Playoffs after that home win against the Arizona Cardinals. Seattle is 2-3 on the road this year, and the Seahawks still have to travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Arizona before the end of December. Barring the Cardinals falling apart at some point before the holiday season, the Seahawks may have to win four of their final five contests to qualify for the postseason. That would include Seattle going 2-1 on the road.
12 Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Losing to what was a winless Oakland team smarts, of course, but it is not a reason to give up on Kansas City. Thursday Night Football match-ups are wacky and produce odd results, it was pouring rain throughout the contest, and the Raiders were up for a home game against their hated rivals. It was a perfect storm to create a KC defeat, and the Chiefs couldn't overcome everything in front of them. Remember how well they have played as of late, though, before dropping them too far in your NFL power rankings.
11 San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
It wasn't pretty, but San Francisco did enough to hold off Washington at home. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin made a big play in the fourth quarter to put the Niners in a position to win, and rookie running back Carlos Hyde found the end zone on a day that fellow RB Frank Gore was made to look pedestrian. While most eyes are on the Cardinals and the Seahawks, San Francisco continues to quietly hang around and remain in the playoff picture. Remember that Colin Kaepernick and company have earned playoff berths with big impressive December victories in the past.
10 Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
Everybody be honest when discussing the Colts this week: Did anybody really believe that Indianapolis wasn't going to roll over Jacksonville at home? Houston losing to the Bengals at home, along with the Colts beating up on the Jaguars has Indianapolis in full control in the AFC South. The Colts are a few wins away from winning the division and quarterback Andrew Luck and his teammates will have a home playoff game. I wouldn't want to be an AFC team traveling to Indianapolis in January.
9 Baltimore Ravens (7-4)
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is a recipient of criticism every year. Don't look now, but Flacco just went to New Orleans and outperformed Drew Brees on Monday Night Football. Flacco knew early that Steve Smith Sr. had a good match-up, and he helped the veteran wide receiver make plays throughout the contest. With all four teams in the AFC North at 7-4, that Week 17 Cleveland at Baltimore game could be the biggest encounter of the final Sunday of the regular season. Flex game, anyone?
8 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
Far too many people are sleeping on the Steelers, and doing so is a big mistake. No team in the AFC North is running away with a division title, and Pittsburgh is going to be in it to win it through the holiday season. Ben Roethlisberger has been there before, and he may be the best quarterback in the division this fall. Big Ben is one of the most clutch quarterbacks of his generation, and I would not feel comfortable betting against him with his team's playoff fate on the line.
7 Philadelphia Eagles (8-3)
I feel bad for quarterback Mark Sanchez because the guy can't do anything right. He completed 30 of 43 pass attempts, threw for over 300 yards and had a touchdown in a blowout win, and yet all that people can focus on is the fact that he tossed two interceptions. The Eagles beat the Titans by 19 points on the road. That some are focusing on two throws made by Sanchez and not on Philadelphia cruising to a win away from home is baffling. Some in the national media need to come up with new story lines.
6 Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1)
I'm sorry. I missed what you were saying about the Bengals after they were blown out by the Cleveland Browns at home a few weeks back. I was too busy focusing on the fact that Cincinnati would win the AFC North if the regular season ended today. Andy Dalton is not nearly as bad a quarterback as he appeared to be on that Thursday night against the Browns, and Cincy has the top duo at the wide receiver position in the division. Add in that the Bengals will be home for three of their final five games, and Cincy may be the favorite to win the AFC North.
5 Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
An entire day has passed since the Sunday Night Football showdown involving the Cowboys and the New York Giants, and the Dallas offensive line may still be protecting quarterback Tony Romo. Dallas has the best o-line in the game today, and it will carry the Cowboys to January football, as long as members of that unit avoid significant injuries. Quarterback Tony Romo can produce big wins when he has time in the pocket. Ask the Giants about Romo, who could be on the verge of silencing all who doubt him, if you don't believe that to be true.
4 Denver Broncos (8-3)
There is no question that the Broncos have not looked like a dominant force capable of returning to the Super Bowl as of late. That said, the Broncos are one of the best home teams in the NFL. Denver is 6-0 when hosting opponents, and the Broncos will host at least one postseason game. If they can somehow avoid having to travel to New England to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots, the Broncos should remain favorites to emerge as champions as the AFC.
3 Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
The expected "the Cardinals are in big trouble" comments following Arizona dropping a game were being made even before that contest came to an end. Here is a memo for everybody dumping dirt on the grave of the 2014 Cardinals: Arizona was away against the Seattle Seahawks, who have been one of the best home teams in all of the NFL over the past few seasons. Worry about Arizona when they drop a game at home, but let's, for now, use reason and cut them some slack.
2 Green Bay Packers (8-3)
There are two quarterbacks I'm not betting against right now, and one of them is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers didn't light it up to the tune of historic numbers at Minnesota, but he did enough against the Vikings to put the Packers in first place in the NFC North standings. Running back Eddie Lacy finding his form in the second half of the year could make the Packers the best team in all of the NFC. Teams that can move the ball on the ground in December and in January are tough to beat.
1 New England Patriots (9-2)
The other quarterback nobody should bet against as of November 2014 is, of course, Tom Brady. Brady has become a Most Valuable Player candidate over the past two months, a stretch of play during which the Patriots have won seven, count 'em, seven straight games. New England has a starting quarterback and a head coach headed to the Hall of Fame, and the Pats are playing better than any other team. They are once again the undisputed kings of NFL power rankings, and New England could run the table up through the start of January.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!